ISAIAH CHAPTER 65
The calling of the Gentiles, Isaiah 65:1. The Jews, for their incredulity, idolatry, and hypocrisy, rejected, Isaiah 65:2-7. A remnant shall be saved, Isaiah 65:8-10. Judgments on the wicked, and blessings on the godly, Isaiah 65:11-16. The flourishing and peaceable state of the new Jerusalem, Isaiah 65:17-25.
That in the primary sense of this text it is a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles, upon the rejection of the Jews, for their contempt and crucifying of Christ, cannot be doubted by any who will not arrogate to themselves a greater ability to interpret the prophecies of the Old Testament than Paul had, who, Romans 10:20, expressly so interpreteth it, and applieth it, which showeth the vanity of the Jews in their other interpretations of it.
I am sought: the word signifies properly a diligent inquiry in things relating to God, 2 Chronicles 14:4 Psalms 34:4 Jeremiah 37:7. I am diligently inquired of by them that asked not for me; that in times before made no inquiry after me (as the Gentiles, who are said to be without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12). As seeking may more strictly relate to prayer, as the word is used, Isaiah 55:6, so this word translated asked may also be so taken, and is so, 1 Samuel 1:20 22:13, but (possibly) it is better interpreted more generally.
I am found of them that sought me not; yea, I was found of them before they sought me; those who formerly did not seek me now seek me; but they were found of me before they
sought me; I prevented them by my grace, sending my Son to preach peace to those that were afar off, Ephesians 2:17, and my apostles to entreat them to be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20, and my Spirit to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, John 16:8.
I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name; I invited whole nations by the preaching of my gospel to behold me; and I invited them with importunity, doubling my words upon them; and this I did unto a
nation not called by my name, with whom I was not in covenant, and which did not profess any relation to me, which none of the Gentiles could pretend unto. The prophet speaks of a thing to come many years after as if it were a thing then done, to signify the certainty of it. God doth the same thing yet in every soul that is converted. But the text is manifestly to be interpreted of the conversion of the Gentiles.
I have spread out my hands; applied to the Jews, Romans 10:21, I have stretched out my hands; that is, I have used all probable means to reduce them, I have stretched out the hands of a passionate orator to persuade them, of a tender mother to protect and defend them, of a liberal benefactor to lead them with my benefits; this I have done continually in the whole course of my providence with them, yet they are a rebellious people. Paul expounded it by, apeiyounta kai antigegonta, a people not persuaded, not believing, but contradicting the will of God.
Which walketh in a way that was not good; that term, is not good, often signifies what is very bad: see 1 Samuel 2:21 Proverbs 24:23 28:21 Psalms 36:4. Though all sins be not equal, yet what is not good is bad.
After their own thoughts: what is here called after their own thoughts, is elsewhere called a walking after the imaginations of their hearts; an ordinary phrase, by which sins (especially sins in the matter of the worship of God) are expressed. Eight times, in the prophet Jeremiah sinning is thus expressed, Jeremiah 3:17 7:24 9:14 11:8 13:10 16:12 18:12 23:17; so also Deuteronomy 29:19. Errors in matter of worship are ordinarily thus expressed, certainly to let us know that all worship must be according to God’s revealed will, and of such errors this text seemeth, by what followeth, to speak; though indeed the reason of all sin is men’s fondness of their own imaginations in opposition to God’s revealed will, whence it is that self-denial is made the law of a discipleship to Christ.
A people that provoketh me to anger: that the Jews are the people here intended is without question; the prophet, speaking of the calling of the Gentiles upon their rejection, reckons up their sins which were the causes. For though their rejecting and crucifying of Christ was that sin which was the proximate cause; yet God did but visit on that generation their iniquities, and the iniquities of their fathers together, they having by that act filled up their measure. They had provoked God continually to anger to his face.
To my face; either in his temple, the place where he used to manifest himself; or (considering what followeth) more probably the phrase signifieth their impudence, not taking notice of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
The particular provocations instanced in are deviations in the matter of Divine worship.
Sacrificing in gardens is one thing instanced in; and
burning incense on brick, or altars of brick, is another, Deuteronomy 12:13: there was a particular altar of gold appointed for incense, Exodus 40:5. God commanded, Exodus 20:24,25, that his altars should be made of earth, or rough stone. This people transgressed both these laws; sacrificing in gardens, for which the prophet reflected on them, Isaiah 1:29, and again Isaiah 66:17; whether in gardens consecrated to idols, or in such gardens, as the heathens worshipped idols in, is not much material for us to know; and burning incense upon altars of brick, directly contrary to the Divine rule. Their worship was doubtless idolatrous, and these phrases signify committing idolatry; but the expressing that sin by these phrases lets us know that the doing contrary to the direction of the Divine rule in God’s worship is a great part of the sinfulness of idolatry.
They remained among the graves, either there expecting revelations by dreams, or there consulting with devils, who were thought to delight in such places; or to practise necromancy, all which were forbidden, Deuteronomy 18:11 Isaiah 8:19. And they
lodged in the monuments; the Hebrew word here used gives advantage to interpreters to vary in their senses. The word signifies only places kept or observed; some interpret it of idol temples; some of caves and dens, in which the heathens used to worship their idols; some of tombs or monuments for dead persons: besides the idolatry of the thing, there was in it a sinful imitation of the heathens, and a swerving from the rule which God had given them. They also ate
swine’s flesh, contrary to the Divine law, Leviticus 11:7 Deuteronomy 14:8; and they endured in their vessels
broth of abominable things; so the word is used, Jude 6 19,23: others read it, parts or pieces of abominable things; that is, broth, or pieces of such flesh as was to the Jews unclean by the law, Le 11. Every creature of God is good, but God’s prohibition had made the flesh of divers creatures an abominable thing to the Jews, they might not touch their flesh, Leviticus 11:28; but they, taking the measures of their duty from their appetite, or from their reason, concluding from natural principles, made no conscience of the positive law of God. This was their iniquity, which is further aggravated in the next verse.
Though they were so exceedingly guilty, yet they pretended to a singular sanctity, so as they would not suffer others to come near or touch them. The Samaritans are usually charged with this uncharitableness, and the use of this form of words; but as some do more excuse the Samaritans than the other Jews as to this rigour, so it may be questioned whether they were not at this time carried into captivity; and certain it is, that among the Jews there was such a generation from whom the Pharisees in our Saviour’s time were derived, and this was the reason of their not eating, except they washed, when they came from the market, Mark 7:4, lest peradventure they should there have touched some heathen, or some person who was legally unclean. Thus they esteemed themselves holier than others, though all their holiness lay in these rituals, and those too such as God never commanded. And indeed those who most exceed in such ritual holiness (lying merely in a separation from others, by the usage of some unwritten traditions) come most short in moral and true holiness; for of these God saith,
These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burneth all the day; that is, a continual provocation to me; as smoke is an offence to our noses, Proverbs 10:26; which seemeth to be the sense rather than what some make, who make it a threatening of God’s wrath smoking against them, which is sufficiently expressed in the following verses.
They may think that I take no notice of these things, or if I take any notice, I will forget them, or at least not enter into judgment with them for them; but I as certainly know and will remember them, as princes or great men that record things in writing which they would not forget. And they shall know that I know and take notice of and will remember them; for
I will not keep silence; I will not long neglect the punishment of them, though for a while I have delayed it, like a man who bites in his wrath, for some wise reasons which are known unto himself best, Psalms 50:21.
Will recompense into their bosom; my punishment of them shall be severe and certain, but yet it shall be just, but a giving them what is their own, as they are obnoxious to my justice, Deuteronomy 7:10 Jeremiah 32:18; like the payment of an ox for an ox, Exodus 21:36 (where the same word is used); they have been froward against me and I will show myself froward against them, Psalms 18:26.
Yea, and when I reckon with them, I will punish them, not only for their personal sins, but for the sins of their parents, which they have testified their approbation of by continuing in them, and so made them their own, by an apish, sinful imitation.
Which have burnt incense upon the mountains: their fathers burnt incense upon the mountains, there performing to idols that homage which I obliged them to pay unto me; or if any of them pretend it was to me, though before an image, yet it was in a way which I directed them not, who had appointed them the place where I would be worshipped.
And blasphemed me upon the hills; so as that, instead of blessing, they indeed blasphemed me upon the hills; instead of speaking well, they spake ill of my name, worshipping me in a way which I had not appointed, and for which they only took their copy from idolaters.
Therefore will I measure their former work into their bosom; therefore I will punish them, and that justly, as he that rendereth another his due by
measure, giving measure for measure, and weight for weight; only they must expect that I should not only punish the late sins that have committed of this nature, but the former sins of this kind which those in this nation, that went before this present generation, did commit, and the present age hath continued in the guilt of.
These words must be conceived as a gracious answer from God to the prophet, saying as Abraham, Genesis 18:23,25, or as Moses, Exodus 32:11-13, pleading God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. To this God replieth that he intended no such severity, the unfaithfulness of men should not make his promise of no effect, Romans 3:3. His threatening should be made good upon the generality of this people, whose vine was of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah, Deuteronomy 32:32. But yet, as in a vineyard which is generally unfruitful, there may be some particular vine that brings forth fruit; or, as in a vine which is full of luxuriant branches that bring forth no fruit, there may be here and there a branch that bringeth forth fruit, and hath the hopes of new wine in the cluster; and as to such, the gardener bids his servant
Destroy it not, or them not, for they are fruitful; there is in them what speaketh God’s blessing, or what may be of use, and do us good.
So (saith God)
will I do for my servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all; either for the sake of my servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with whom I anciently made a covenant; or for my servant David’s sake; or for the sake of such as are my elect at this time amongst them: see Jeremiah 30:11 Amos 9:1.
I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob; no seed beareth a proportion to the tree or plant that it produceth, but in comparison with that is very little; yet it is enough, through the virtue which the God of nature hath put into it, to preserve and uphold the species to which it doth relate. They are but a remnant (saith God) that shall be saved; see Romans 11:5; but a small number that shall come out of the captivity of Babylon: or, (which I rather choose) they will be but a few that shall believe in my Son. yet they shall be enough for my promise to live in: this Paul argueth, Ro 11. As the plant yet lives in the seed, when the root is plucked up, the leaves dropped off, and the stalk is burnt up; so the promise of God lives in a few, when the generality of the people for their sins are cast off and destroyed. The favour of God to men, and the promise of God to good men, lived in one family of Lot, when the five cities were burned, and in the one family of Noah, when the world was drowned; the favour and promise of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and David lived in the few that returned out of Babylon, and in those few who under the gospel received Christ, and believed in him, though the generality of them rejected the counsel of God against themselves. God further promiseth to bring out of
Judah an inheritor of his mountains, which the most and best interpreters do interpret of the Jews’ return out of the captivity of Babylon to Jerusalem, and into their own country, and particularly to worship God in his temple upon Mount Zion. My mountains: the country of Judea was a mountainous country, Ezekiel 36:1,8. The mountains were round about Jerusalem, Psalms 125:2. See also Ezekiel 38:8. God calls these mountains his mountains, because he had chosen that country before all others, and was once truly worshipped there.
Mine elect signifieth here God’s chosen ones, as in Psalms 106:23 Isaiah 48:10. The term doth not always signify such as belong to the
election of grave, but such as are dignified with some special favour. The whole nation of the Jews are called a chosen people. But possibly this promise is to be interpreted with relation to the sincerer part of that people, after that the others should be wasted by the captivity.
Sharon was a place of great fruitfulness for pastures. David’s herds were kept there, 1 Chronicles 27:29. It was become like a wilderness, Isaiah 33:9; God here promiseth that it should again be a
place for the flocks. Jeremiah 31:27, God promiseth to sow again the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast. The valley of Achor had its name from the stoning of Achan there, Joshua 7:26. It is thought to have been the first place the Jews set foot in when they had passed Jordan; hence, Hosea 2:15, God promised to make it a door of hope; and here the text saith, the flocks shall lie down. But lest the wicked, idolatrous Jews should apply this promise to themselves, God limiteth it in the last words to the people that had sought him; that is, that had truly worshipped him, according to his own institution; and that the words have the force of such a limitation appeareth from what followeth.
Do not you that are idolaters think that these promises belong to you,
ye are they that forsake the Lord, that is, the way of the Lord; it is a phrase opposed to a walking with God. Our walking with God is in the way of his statutes, forsaking of him signifieth a declining or turning aside from that way.
To forget God’s holy mountain, signifies not to regard the true worship of God, or not to mind it. God calleth Zion his holy mountain, Joel 3:17, and Jerusalem is called God’s holy mountain. The hill of Zion is called the mountain of God’s holiness, Psalms 48:1; as the temple is called the beauty of holiness, Psalms 29:2 96:9: their not regarding the worship of God there, but worshipping God or idols in gardens, amongst the graves and monuments, is what is here called a forgetting his holy mountain. Isaiah prophesied in the time of Ahaz, Isaiah 1:1; of whom it is said, 2 Chronicles 28:23-25, that he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, that he cut in pieces the vessels of the Lord’s house, shut the doors of the house of the Lord, and made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem; and in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods. See also more of his practices 2 Chronicles 28:2-4, and 2 Kings 16:3,10-12. And there were certainly many of his people that joined with him in his worship, who are all here said to forget God’s holy mountain, and to prepare a table for that troop; the idols of the ten tribes, 2 Kings 16:3, and of the Assyrians, 2 Chronicles 28:23, which were a troop, whereas the God of Israel was one God. And as God had altars, which are sometimes called a table, as in Ezekiel 41:22; so they prepared altars for the idols, as may be read in the aforementioned story of Ahaz; though by preparing a table here seems rather to be meant the feasts they made upon their sacrifices in their festival days, which was in imitation of what the true God had commanded his people, Deuteronomy 16:14,15. Idolaters also made feasts in honour to their idols, as appears from Jude 9:27 Ezekiel 18:6,11 Am 2:8 1 Corinthians 8:10. Nor did they only feast in honour to the idols, but they
furnished drink-offerings unto their number. God had appointed drink-offerings for his honour, and as a piece of homage to him, Exodus 29:40,41 Le 23:18,37; these people had paid this homage to idols. See Jeremiah 7:18 19:13 32:29. What we translate number in the Hebrew is la Meni, to Meni. Avenarius translates it Mercury, an idol whom merchants worshipped for good success in trading; others understand it of the host of heaven; others of the multitude of their idols; our translation reads it their number. The word coming from a Hebrew root, which signifieth to number, is no where else found in Scripture, which makes it hard too positively to assert the true meaning of it.
You have offended in number, worshipping a multitude, a troop of idols; there shall be a great number of you perish by the sword; or possibly the term
number may refer to all in the next phrase, to let them know that none of them should escape. God saith he will number them, tell them out one by one to the sword.
You shall all bow down to the slaughter; as you have bowed down to idols, Isaiah 44:17, (which are mine enemies,) I will make you bow down to your enemy’s swords. I called you by my prophets, Zechariah 7:7,11,12: you did not answer by doing the things which I by them spoke to you for; but not considering that I saw you, or if considering it, yet not regarding it, you impudently did evil; yea, you sinned deliberately, choosing sinful courses, the things which I hated, which are (here as often) expressed by it meiosis, and called the things in which God delighteth not. In matters of worship we ought to choose nothing wherein God delighteth not; and reason as well as Scripture will assure us he can delight in nothing of that nature which himself hath not directed. It is observable, that ruin is here threatened to this people, not for their immoralities or lewd lives, but for their errors and superstitions in Divine worship. Other sins provoke God to wrath, but those of this nature alone are enough to ruin souls and nations.
As there are a party amongst you who, instead of serving God, are the servants of men, in complying with idolatry and superstition; so I have some servants amongst you who have distinguished themselves by keeping close to my institutions from the rest of you, I will distinguish them from you in the dispensations of my providence: those that have eat bread at their idol feasts shall be hungry; my people, that would not do so, they shall have enough: those who have furnished a drink offering to Meni, or that number of idols, shall want that drink by which they have so profaned my name; but
my servants, from whose mouths you pulled the drink, because they would only furnish a drink-offering to me, they shall drink. My servants, whom now you make to mourn, and upon whom you pour shame and contempt, shall rejoice, and you shall be
ashamed; you that now rejoice and shout, while my servants that cannot comply with you are afflicted, and by you made to mourn, you shall cry for sorrow, and howl through vexation, whilst my servants who keep close to my institutions shall sing for joy of heart. Those who in an hour of persecution for religion can have patience under the enemy’s triumphs and rage, will find that the rod of the wicked shall not always rest upon the lot of the righteous.
Your name shall rot, as Proverbs 10:7, or only be used when men would curse others, saying, Let them be made like such persons. As the names of Leah and Rachel, Ruth 4:11, and others of God’s servants, were used in blessing; so your names shall only be used in cursing; or when men will curse themselves, they shall use your names as examples of the eminent wrath of God upon sinners. For you shall not perish by an ordinary hand, but by the hand of the
Lord God; and as is the God, so is his justice, so is his strength; yea, God himself shall look upon your name as accursed, and not suffer his people to be called by it; they shall not be called Jews, but Christians, Acts 11:26, the children of God, John 1:12. So detestable a sin is idolatry, that God will not suffer himself to be called by a name given to idols, how proper soever it be to express his perfection, Hosea 2:16,17; nor yet suffer his own people to be called by a name by which idolaters are known.
I will bring it to pass, that over all the world, if any man bless himself, or bless another, it shall be in God Amen. So the Hebrew (we translate it the God of truth). Amen is a name given to Christ, Revelation 3:14, These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness; being here applied to God, many think it makes a great proof of the Godhead of Christ, and judge the sense of this text to be, that under the times of the gospel men should not bless themselves (as before) in the names of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, but in the name of Christ, in the God Amen; nor is this an improbable sense. Others taking it more appellatively, by Elohim Amen, here understand that God who shows himself true and faithful in his promises. In like manner it is prophesied, that those that swear (by which some understand worship God, others, calling God to be a witness) should swear by the
God of truth, or in the God of truth; either worshipping God in Christ the Amen, or calling the faithful God to attest their sincerity, or swearing by that God who hath approved his truth and faithfulness by saving and delivering his people.
Because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes; because they shall see what God promised is fulfilled, the troubles of his people are at an end, and they are hid from God’s eyes, that is, they are at an end.
For, behold, I will tell you yet a more admirable thing, I am about wholly to alter and change the state not only of my people, who are now afflicted, restoring them to a more lightsome state, more free from trouble and afflictions; but
I create new heavens and a new earth, bringing a new face upon the world, sending my Son to raise up a new church, and to institute a new worship, John 4:21,24, and giving out my Spirit in a more plentiful manner, Acts 2:17, which new state shall abide until a new heaven and earth appear, in which shall dwell nothing but righteousness, 2 Peter 3:13 Revelation 21:1. And that state of things shall be such, and so glorious, as the former state of my people shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Whether this new heavens and new earth here promised signifies such a stale of the church wherein Christ shall personally reign upon earth over his saints, the wicked being destroyed, (as some have thought lie shall for a thousand years,) I very much doubt, and do not see how from this and the parallel texts any such thing can be concluded.
You that are my people, though you cannot rejoice with that degree of joy that attendeth a present fruition of good; yet be glad, and rejoice with the
rejoicing of hope, for the thing is certain what I am already doing. Nor let your present state, or the discouragements you have from seeming improbabilities, spoil your joy; for it is not a work to be produced in an ordinary course, or by an ordinary power, but by the power of me, who bring something out of nothing, or out of what hath no fittedness to such a production; and I will create
Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy: by Jerusalem here must be meant the church, as well under the gospel as under the law (because the gospel church is grafted into that olive); or else this prophecy must be understood as fulfilled in the coming of Christ, Luke 2:10; or else it referreth to a more full calling of the Jews than we have yet seen or heard of.
The nature of joy lying in the satisfaction and. well pleasedness of the soul in the obtaining of the thing it hath willed, agreeth unto God, and joy and rejoicing are applied to him, Isaiah 62:5, and in this text; so also Jeremiah 32:41 Zephaniah 3:17.
The voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying: such kind of promises are to be found Isaiah 35:10 51:11 Jeremiah 31:12 Revelation 21:4, which must be understood either comparatively, they shall endure no such misery as formerly; or (if interpreted to a state in this life) as signifying only some long or eminent state of happiness; if as to another life, they may be taken strictly, as signifying perpetuity and perfection of joy and happiness.
Whereas God hath made many promises of long life to the Jews, they should all be fulfilled to God’s people among them, so as there should be rare abortions among them, Exodus 23:26; few infants should be carried out to burial, nor but few that should not have filled up their years; those that were now children should die at a great age; yet none of these things should be of any advantage to wicked men, but if, any of them should live to be.a hundred years old, yet they should die accursed. This seemeth to be the plain sense. If any desire to read more opinions of these words, he may find enough in the English Annotations.
The quite contrary to what is said of the slothful man, Proverbs 12:27: see Job 27:13-17.
Duration and perpetuity are promised to them in their happy estate.
And not only a blessing to them, but also to their offspring. But what is here promised which wicked men do not ofttimes enjoy, and God’s people ofttimes want?
Answ. 1. Wicked men may have them for their good parents’ sake, and good men may sometimes want them for evil parents’ sake.
2. Bad men may have some of these things, but they cannot expect them; good men may at present want them, but they may expect them from the hand of God if they be good for them.
3. Bad men may have them in wrath; the blessing of God gives them to good men, and adds no sorrow therewith.
God promised, Isaiah 58:9, to answer them when they called; here he promiseth to be so ready to answer, as to answer the words as soon as they should be formed in their hearts, before they should get them out of their lips, Psalms 32:5 Daniel 10:12; yea, while they were speaking, Daniel 9:20,23 Ac 10:44. Nor doth God say only they shall have the things they would have, (for so wicked men may sometimes have from the bountiful hand of Divine Providence,) but they shall have them as an answer or return unto their prayers.
This verse containeth a promise much like that Isaiah 11:6,9, and relates to the ceasing of persecution. The people of God for their whiteness and innocency are often compared to lambs and sheep, wicked men to wolves and lions, for their antipathy to the seed of the woman: God here promiseth to take off the fierceness of the spirits of his people’s enemies, so that they shall live quietly and peaceably together. Wicked men are compared to serpents, Micah 7:17, compared with Psalms 72:9; God promiseth a time of tranquillity to his church under the metaphor of serpents eating the dust, their proper meat, Genesis 3:14, instead of flying upon men: it signifies such a time when wicked men should mind their proper business, and not make it their work to eat up the people of God like bread. For the last phrase, see Isaiah 11:9, what is there noted. But will some say, When shall these things be? The Scripture gives us no record of any such period of time yet past. And it is very probable that this is a promise yet to be fulfilled, and it is not for us to know the times and seasons, but in the mean time to let our faith and patience be seen. In the mean time, we may learn that it is God’s work to restrain the wolves and serpents of the world, who would else be always doing what they are sometimes doing; and it is a sad sign that God is not yet at peace with that people, where we see wolves devouring lambs, and serpents destroying men instead of licking up dust, nor well-pleased with that part of his holy mountain where there is nothing but hurting and destroying, biting and devouring one another. When God shall be at peace with a people, these things shall not be found amongst them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 65". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany